Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
practitioners should ideally think about a project's full life cycle and anticipate impacts at
each of four stages (Sadler, Vanclay, and Verocai 2000), including conceptualization and
planning, construction, operation, and decommissioning (Interorganizational Committee
on Guidelines and Principles 1994)—something that is rarely done.
As the discussion of Lancang dams in chapter 3 highlighted, people whose lives were
uprooted by the construction of Manwan Dam in the 1990s had a difficult time obtaining
adequate housing, finding employment, and securing a decent standard of living for their
families. The problems have now persisted for a generation. Many experts and government
officials have acknowledged that resettlement plans at the Manwan Dam site were carried
out haphazardly and that compensation levels were woefully inadequate.
In addition to Manwan, the socioeconomic survey results provide some insight into how
resettlement is affecting villagers at three other dam sites on the Lancang at various stages
of construction. Resettlement has radically changed households' access to farmland and
other means of subsistence and the way they relate to their neighbors and kin through so-
cial networks of reciprocity. In many cases, resettlement has provided a powerful incent-
ive for households to send one or more family members into cities and towns to engage
in wage labor and send remittances home. These findings—with all their deficiencies and
framed within a window of time of less than two decades—nevertheless represent some of
the best knowledge to date about how dams affect people. For the thousands of other pro-
jects throughout China, the answer is that we unfortunately don't know that much.
Analyzing thecorrect spatial scale canbeequally troublesome. Atwhatgeographic loca-
tion or level of analysis are the effects of dam projects best examined or understood? While
people living near a dam site or reservoir may experience drastic negative impacts, the net
effect downstream may be positive due to increased reliability of irrigation water or the be-
nefits of flood protection. Furthermore, if we consider impacts from a regional or national
scale, large dam projects may appear to offer a net benefit due to increased hydropower or
revenue from the sale of electricity. Dams in southwest China provide a growing share of
electricity to fuel rapid industrial development in coastal areas with access to global capital
some2,000kilometers away(Magee 2006) 1 . Inthecase oflargedamconstruction ontrans-
boundary rivers, the situation becomes even more complex due to limited data availability
and geopolitical considerations. On the Lancang River, for example, downstream nations
including Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam have experienced biophysic-
al, ecological, and socioeconomic impacts from China's decision to seriously alter the hy-
drograph of the upper Mekong River, an issue that will be examined more closely in the
next chapter.
Certainsocioeconomic variables,suchasincomeorhousingvalues,areeasiertoidentify
and measure than others. Mitigation policies often fail to recognize sociocultural impacts
and underestimate the economic and social value of prior livelihood strategies. Many as-
sets, in particular those that are communally owned and managed or are nonmaterial, are
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